Eleven brave souls ventured along with me on my first trip as a club trip leader into Canyon Creek! We left Dunedin on Friday night in a nearly ancient 4WD van (the DOC office in Twizel suggested we’d want a 4WD vehicle) complete with the club trailer, stopping in Oamaru for takeaways. Shortly after Oamarama, we reached Birchwood road. It was here where the 4WD was quite handy, as Birchwood road was quite rough in places. We spent Friday night camped at the Ahuriri base hut, though I don’t think many of us found very flat ground. It was a beautiful, mild, dry night – perfect for being in a bivvy bag or even braving the elements. It was, in fact, a little too dry as there was absolutely no water in the tank at the hut.
Once we got going Saturday morning, we made excellent time up Canyon creek along the very clearly marked route (marker poles/cairns the entire way). After a lunch stop just after reaching the main canyon creek valley floor at ~1300, all 12 of us decided to drop our packs and tackle the side trip up to the unnamed lake at ~1650m. There was a bit of a scramble to start, but then it was a steady steep rocky climb, a bit of scree sidling and climbing over some more rocks before we reached our destination – a beautiful aqua blue alpine lake surrounded by snow and stark rocks. Four hearty individuals (including Dylan and myself) had a quick “refreshing” dip before we started our return journey back down to the valley floor as the clouds started coming in. I must admit I was pleased we all made the journey, as reaching the lake had been one of my primary goals on the trip.
After picking up our packs, it was just a wee bit farther up the valley to the rock bivouac where we set up camp. The weather started to turn, with the wind picking up and a few spots of rain coming in. Tents were assembled in rapid time, with dinner cooked very shortly thereafter, with many of us seeking the relative shelter of our tents fairly early in the evening. My food group somehow managed to squeeze into the well walled off smaller section of the rock bivouac for an “intimate” dinner setting (someone had really put some time into making the back of the bivouac weatherproof – there was mud and grass in-between the rocks, and grass scattered on the floor) . When the rain really started to pour, the other eight quickly took refuge on the other side of the bivouac – although it wasn’t quite as protected from the weather due to its larger size. One club member even slept in the bivouac on Saturday night. Dylan had really wanted to sleep in the bivouac due to the wind as we were setting up the tent, but since I was in charge, I picked the tent as I figured it would be more rain/water proof than the rock bivouac, which did prove to be a little leaky. And furthermore, the wind completely died down, so we had a quiet night.
Sunday morning dawned misty, and the group split up with 10 of us tackling the climb over the saddle into the Ahuriri, and 2 having a more leisurely walk back down Canyon creek to the carpark, stopping on the way to chat with and impress a group of guided tourists who had been camped further down the valley from us on Saturday night.
Those of us on the saddle had a fairly long day involving more off track climbing, sidling, bush bashing, and route finding while making several references to Moirs guide North (thankfully someone had a copy of the 8th edition, which provided a much more complete description than the 7th) (it was a learning trip). Spending some time on the saddle taking in the views of the Ahuriri was definitely a highlight. After initially starting too high, we found the route into the Ahuriri, which has obviously been travelled many times before, as it was fairly straightforward to follow once we picked it up.
We then had a long, flat, hot walk on Sunday afternoon through the Ahuriri back to the car park. Thankfully Tomas found a swimming hole just before the track junction (approximately 20 min from the car park), which provided some much needed relief from the heat!
The 10 of us were greeted at the van by our party of 2, who had been patiently waiting some 3 ½ hours for us to return! We were all reminded once again that neither the van nor the club trailer was dust proof. The Oamarama fish & chips shop made a bit of a killing as we passed through, as they were the only place in town that was open and serving food. We finally arrived back at the clubrooms about 10 pm Sunday night.
Overall, it was a wonderful weekend with a great group of people with a wide variety of skills, some teaching and some learning! It was truly a joy to be the trip leader to this happy group of trampers, and to get my first trip as a trip leader under my belt!
Though in future, I would probably lead a trip to somewhere a bit easier or where I had been before. And provided we don’t need a 4WD van, I’d request an auto van, as being an American, my manual driving skills are well, seriously lacking, so I had to have other club members drive most of the way.
But overall, everyone survived with all their limbs, and we didn’t need to set off the PLB, so I’m considering it a success!